HOW TO: STEAMPUNK MUMMY COSTUME
My son developed an interest in Ancient Egypt last year, so it was no surprise when he asked to be a mummy for Halloween. We go to a Comic-con in our area each year, and there’s always a lot of steampunk monster-hunters around, but not many monsters to be hunted. He thought it would be fun to add a little steampunk to his mummy look.
Google and Pinterest did not provide much inspiration for a steampunk mummy, so we were pretty much on our own to create from scratch. Here’s how we made it.
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MAKING OF A MUMMY
This mummy costume was an ideal project for using tea and coffee to give it an old and dusky appearance. While there are plenty of ways to get the “tea stained” look these days, to stay in line with the Victorian Steam Era, actual tea staining seemed to be the right thing to do.
Tea or coffee staining may not always be the best method for antiquing/aging some delicate items, such as Grandma’s handmade doilies. Both tea and coffee are mildly acidic, and they could potentially damage the fibers over time.
One of my favorite products for getting the tea stained effect, without actually tea staining, is Rit Liquid Dye in TAN (Rit Dye Liquid Fabric Dye, 8-Ounce, Tan). I’ve dyed quilts, curtains, pillow shams, pillow cases, doilies, tea towels, etc. with this stuff. It’s very easy, and I usually do it right in my washing machine.
What? Are you scared yet?
It’s actually safe and is the recommended method by The Rit Studio. I use the instructions provided directly from their website here and have had no problems.
THE GHOULISH GEAR
Bed sheet rags ripped into different size strips. I knew I didn’t want to use any gauzy materials with this mummy costume, but I also didn’t want to have to do any sewing. My husband uses those industrial rags made from bed sheets, so I raided some of his stash out of the garage.
The rags come in large white squares, and I hand-ripped them in different widths and lengths.
I didn’t count how many strips we ended up with, but I would guess around 90-100.
Tea bags and coffee grounds for staining and a large pot. See how I used these below.
White or beige thermal long underwear. I could only find them in men’s sizes and in white; however, I knew I’d be tea staining them anyway and that the mummy strips would hold up anything too big underneath.
Steampunk goggles. We bought his at our local Comic-con, but you can also make yourself a pair or buy online. Steampunk Victorian Goggles Glasses
Other accessories. The little top hat and pocket watch both came from a party store. The top hat headband had one little steampunk gear glued on it, but was also trimmed with lace and bows and had a veil attached. I removed all of those and decided not to put the gear back on; it was perfect just with the brown satin band.
My dad tried to give him a real pocket watch to wear, but I knew I would worry about it getting lost the entire time we were out trick-or-treating in the dark.
Footwear. A pair of Doc Martens would have really topped off the steampunk look, but for a kid who seems to grow a shoe size every 3 months, that’s not really an investment I could justify. The best I could do was put him in some black oxfords, which worked out just fine.
(I realized this was the only picture I actually had of his shoes. This was the last house we visited, and by that time, gravity had taken over the leg bandages…and hat apparently.)
BLACK BUBBLING BREW
I’ve been tea staining things as long as I can remember. I even tea stained about half the papers on my desk last week…and then the floor at Panera a few days later. I don’t really recommend either of those methods. I must be blessed, and my teacups runneth over.
Natural tea staining only works well on natural materials, like linen, cotton, and wool. If you are staining items that are new, have been dry cleaned, or have never been laundered, you’ll want to wash them first, since the sizing and other synthetic chemicals used in textile manufacturing and dry cleaning processes are usually stain and water resistant and will not dye well.
The origin behind tea staining was to cover up accidental stains in the linens by dying the whole pieces a nice even color, instead of having to replacing them. The fun thing about Halloween is that you get to break the normal rules, and THE GRUNGIER, THE BETTER.
“Double, double toil and trouble…” Thank you, Mr. Shakespeare for that grim, but best-ever poem. And thanks Ms. Allen for making us memorize far too many of those scenes from Macbeth, but then taking our high school senior English class to the movies to see Mel Gibson play Hamlet.
Now let’s get brewing.
Before the actual “staining” occurs, you’ll want to get rid of any bright whites and get an overall aged look to your fabric. You’ll also want to put on an apron or clothing that you don’t mind getting stained.
For the Bandages
1. In a large pot (that you also won’t mind if stained), boil enough water to cover the torn strips.
2. Add 2-3 bags of black tea per cup of water.
3. Let simmer for 15 minutes and turn off the heat on the stove.
4. Remove the tea bags, and set aside. Don’t squeeze out the excess or throw them away yet!
5. Very carefully, with a set of tongs, start adding your mummy strips. Try not to splash, since it’s very hot and could stain other objects that you don’t intend to stain.
6. Let them sit in the tea for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure to keep all the pieces down in the tea, since they will try to float to the top and escape. They will soak up quite a bit of the liquid.
7. Quoting the late, great Bob Ross, “Let’s get a little crazy here.” If you are liking the color around 45 minutes (they will dry a lighter shade), then take your used tea bags and start “stamping” your fabric by pressing down on various spots with your wooden spoon.
8. Continue to press the teabags randomly over sections of the strips to create dark spots until you are really tired of pressing teabags randomly over sections of the strips.
9. Gently take out the strips, pressing out any liquid back into the pot, and set aside in a separate bowl to cool.
For the Long Underwear
1. Turn the heat back on and add a few more tea bags in the existing brew. Repeat steps 3-6, adding the long underwear instead of the bandage strips.
2. Remove from heat, and instead of using the tea bags to stamp, take some brewed coffee grounds and gently stir around. I saved a few used K-cups and dumped the grounds into the mix, rubbing them into the material.
3. Allow to sit in the coffee and tea until cooled and desired color is reached.
When tea staining items that you plan launder, it’s best soak them in a gallon of cold water with a tablespoon of vinegar to help set the color. Detergents are made to remove food stains like tea and coffee and will eventually fade out the color.
Setting is not necessary here, since mummies typically don’t do laundry.
However, you will want to get them dried. The pieces can be hung out to air dry or placed in the dryer. If going in the dryer, place the items in pillow cases (that you don’t mind getting stained), and close up with rubber bands. If there’s still coffee bits on the long underwear, rinse off with cold water before putting in the dryer.
Tip: be prepared to wipe down the dryer afterward, since it can discolor it a little. A quick wipe out will take care of it easily.
The staining process takes the better part of a day, so I would not advise trying to do it on the same day you’re going to need the costume. The mummy wrapping also takes a while, so plan accordingly.
I had my son take all the pieces and separate in groups by length. This made it easier to make sure there were enough large pieces left as we got closer to the end of wrapping and didn’t have to undo knots to move to a bigger or smaller body part.
We chose to tie each piece separately in knots, which reminded me of Victorian ragged ruffles—in a scary monster sort of way. This also ensures full use of all body parts, since they’re all individually wrapped.
Add the rest of the accessories, and you’ve got a Steampunk Mummy ready to rack up some candy!
We’ve never had a trick-or-treater at our house. We probably never will. In order to visit any of our nearest neighbors, we get in a vehicle and drive, so folks don’t typically venture out our way for trick-or-treating.
However, on Halloween, the place to go around here is the small town where I grew up. Sweetwater, TN, pop. 5,899, is famous for a few things: The National Muscadine Festival each September, The Lost Sea, and Halloween. Well, there was some fame and attention in 2010, when fireworks during the annual Fourth of July celebration destroyed a 117-year old, 60,000 square foot abandoned warehouse downtown.
They still have the fireworks, but it’s Halloween that gets people most excited. It basically takes place on one street that gets blocked off, which happens to be only one street over from where my dad and his 6 brothers and sisters grew up—the house where we walked to after school every day.
Remember when that was a real thing? Walking to and from school?
It was just my dad, son, and I who went out this year. My husband’s mother had passed away a couple of weeks before, and he was taking care of some things and couldn’t make it this time. The 3 of us had a lot of fun as we always do.
Creatures from all sorts of places gather here this one night of the year. Those who are brave enough will take the risk of walking through Mr. Camp’s graveyard and haunted house; then in December, he’ll sell you a Christmas tree on his farm. That’s small town life, folks.
Can't have Halloween without the obligatory Thriller flash mob in the middle of the street.